Tiny Habits to Stop Touching Your Face

Updated on April 7, 2020

Contact: BJ Fogg, PhD -- bjfogg@stanford.edu


In March of 2020 I invited people around the world to join me in a research project on how to stop the habit of touching your face. As of March 8 (Sunday), 57 people have applied to join the project. Applications are now closed. If you *must* be a part of this work for whatever reason, then email me.


Face touching is a difficult habit to change. I want to be clear about that. And I don't expect us to find one ideal solution for everyone.

​That said, we can do research to identify the best solutions, and then we can share those solutions quickly, as we do additional research. So that's our objective here. This project is an intervention.

What we find in our research, even in just a week or two, will be more helpful than guessing at answers. To this point I've declined media interviews on this topic. This is a serious matter and guesses are a bad idea. Instead, we need to give people guidance based on the best applied research we can do, given the urgency of the the global outbreak.

My intention is that we will do this research in full public view. This web page here (https://www.tinyhabits.com/stop-touching-your-face) is the online home for our project. You can return here to get updates.


The Overall Plan

Done -- Step 1. We gathered a huge list of techniques

As of March 8 the research team entered over 300 techniques that might help people stop touching their face.

In research terms: A convenience sample of participants recruited via Twitter (n = 48) provided a total of 326 responses (including duplicates) suggesting techniques to help reduce infection from hand-face contact.

Done -- Step 2. Consolidated the techniques

From the hundreds of techniques listed in Step 1, we have lots of overlaps. So in Step 2 we consolidated the list so each technique is listed only once.

Along the way, we kept the reference URL attached to the technique. (Where the researcher found the technique.) I believe this reference will be useful later.

In research terms: Experts in infectious diseases started with the 326 responses from Step 1. After multiple rounds of data cleaning, categorizing techniques, and consolidating redundant answers, 63 techniques remained.

Done --> Step 3. Experts evaluate each technique for effectiveness

Completed on March 12th & 13th, experts in infectious diseases evaluated each of the 63 techniques from Step 2. The top 30 items from the expert assessment will continue to Step 4.

(We will share the research details of Step 3 on this page on March 16 -- the credentials of experts who did evaluations, how it was done, and the overall results.)

Done --> Step 4: Everyday people evaluate the top 30 techniques for practicality

Everyday people rated top 30 techniques from Step 3. They are rating each item by how likely they would be to use this technique in their real lives. As for March 22, over 110 rated these items.

Note: The purpose of Steps 3 and 4 is to have data on what's effective and what people are likely to do. It's the combination of these two factors that comprise a good behavior match (What I call a Golden Behavior). Once we know the Golden Behaviors, then we can do more testing. That's what we do in Step 5

Done --> Step 5: Combine expert evaluations with ratings from everyday people

We put together results of Step 3 and Step 4. This is on a slide set we are not yet ready to publicize, but if you have a clear need to see the preliminary findings, email bjfogg@stanford.edu

​In process --> Step 6: Match people with techniques and get results in the real world.

We put the top behaviors from Step 5 into a system (a web app designed for mobile) that allows anyone in the world to match themselves with techniques to reduce face touching.

We are piloting this with about 70 people. Next step is to imrpove the system and then offer this matching experience to a wider group.


That's all for now.

--BJ Fogg

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